The New A+ 900 Series: What’s New (Part 4 of 5)

March 9, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Posted in CompTIA | 1 Comment
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Welcome back to my series of posts on the new A+ exam. The old 220-801 and 220-802 exams are still available, but they will retire on June 30, 2016 in the United States. CompTIA has released a new version of the A+ certification by rolling out the 220-901 and 220-902 exams on December 15, 2015.

  • In my first post, I went over the timeline and what to expect from the exam changes as a whole.
  • In my second post, I went into detail regarding the first two objectives for 220-901, Hardware and Networking.
  • In my third post, I went into detail regarding the last two objectives for 220-901, Mobile Devices and Hardware & Network Troubleshooting.

In this post, I will cover the first two objectives for 220-902, Windows Operating Systems and Other Operating Systems & Technologies. I’ll give you the entire overview of each objective, list each subobjective, tell you where each topic fell in the old A+ 800-series (if applicable), and put all changes or additions in RED ITALICS.

I will not call out any deleted topics, although CompTIA has removed some topics. This is because I am not really sure if those topics were actually removed from the exam, or if they are just so insignificant that they aren’t called out in the objective listing, but are still floating around in some test questions. Remember that CompTIA’s objective listing contains a disclaimer that says,

“The lists of examples provided in bulleted format below each objective are not exhaustive lists. Other examples of technologies, processes or tasks pertaining to each objective may also be included on the exam although not listed or covered in this objectives document.”

For this reason, I didn’t want to focus on what was removed. My exam experience has shown that the bullet lists are not exhaustive. Spending time focusing on what was removed may give you a false sense of security by making you think you don’t need to study those topics. So I am just ignoring any topic removals.

First, a note about “Bloom’s Levels”

You’ll see me refer to topics changing their Bloom’s level. In the instructional design world, Bloom’s taxonomy is used to describe the depth or complexity of a learning outcome, just as the OSI model describes the level at which a network component operates. Level 1 is basic memorization (what is a router?), where level 6 is complete mastery of a concept (designing a network from scratch).

If I mention here that a Bloom’s level has changed, it generally means that CompTIA is asking for something more complex than memorization. While these changes shouldn’t scare you, there is a bit more “rubber meeting the road” to the higher Bloom’s levels. For example, instead of recognizing various LCD technologies from a list, you may be asked to evaluate which LCD is the best choice for a given scenario. Instead of answering a question about how CIDR notation behaves in the abstract, you may be asked to configure a subnet mask.

220-902 Objective 1: Windows Operating Systems

A+ 220-802 covered Windows operating systems in its own domain. It included Windows operating system (OS) features and requirements, installation, command-line tools, tools and features, Control Panel utilities, networking, and maintenance. The biggest change in this objective is the OSs versions that are included.

What’s changed? In A+ 220-902, Windows operating systems now include Windows 8 and 8.1. No big surprise: Windows XP was removed. But contrary to popular belief, Windows 10 is NOT included. Often I hear complaints that the A+ certification doesn’t include the latest Windows version (because this happens in almost every iteration of A+.) But keep in mind that the objectives for this exam were ironed out last year while Windows 10 was still in its infancy.

1.1 Compare and contrast various features and requirements of Microsoft Operating Systems (Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1). – From Objective 1, subobjective 1 in the old 220-802. New topics were added:

  • Features 
    • Side by side apps – added to the Features section
    • Metro UI – added to the Features section
    • Pinning – added to the Features section
    • One Drive – added to the Features section
    • Windows Store – added to the Features section
    • Multimonitor task bars – added to the Features section
    • Charms – added to the Features section
    • Start Screen – added to the Features section
    • Power Shell – added to the Features section
    • Live sign in – added to the Features section
    • Action Center – added to the Features section

1.2 Given a scenario, install Windows PC operating systems using appropriate methods. – From Objective 1, subobjective 2 in 220-902. These new topics were added:

  • Boot methods 
    • Solid state/flash drives – added to the Boot methods section
    • Netboot – added to the Boot methods section
    • External/hot swappable drive – added to the Boot methods section
    • Internal hard drive (partition) – added to the Boot methods section
  • Type of installations
    • Recovery partition – added to the Type of installations section
    • Refresh/restore – added to the Type of installations section
  • Partitioning
    • GPT – added to the Partitioning section
  • File system types/formatting
    • ExFAT – added to the File system types/formatting section
    • NFS – added to the File system types/formatting section
    • ext3, ext4 – added to the File system types/formatting section
  • Properly formatted boot drive with the correct partitions/format– added

1.3 Given a scenario, apply appropriate Microsoft command line tools. – From Objective 1, subobjective 3 in 220-802. The Networking command-line tools that were included in this objective in 220-802 have been moved to the Networking objective in 220-901. These new topics were added:

  • GPUPDATE – added
  • GPRESULT – added
  • DIR – added
  • EXIT – added
  • HELP – added
  • EXTRACT – added
  • Commands available with standard privileges vs. administrative privileges. – added

1.4 Given a scenario, use appropriate Microsoft operating system features and tools. – From Objective 1, subobjective 4 in 220-902. These new topics were added:

  • Disk Management
    • Initializing – added to the Disk Management section
    • Shrink partitions – added to the Disk Management section
    • Assigning/changing drive letters – revised to include changing
    • Storage spaces – added to the Disk Management section
  • Other
    • Windows Upgrade Advisor – added to the Other section
  • System Utilities
    • DEFRAG – added to the System Utilities section
    • System restore –  added to the System Utilities section
    • Windows Update –  added to the System Utilities section

1.5 Given a scenario, use Windows Control Panel utilities. – From Objective 1, subobjective 5 in 220-802. These new topics were added:

  • Display/Display Settings – revised to include Display Settings
    • Color depth – added to the Display/Display Settings section
    • Refresh rate – added to the Display/Display Settings section
  • Folder Options
    • General options – added to the Folder Options section
    • View options – added to the Folder Options section
  • System
    • Hardware profiles – added to the System section
  • Programs and features – added
  • Devices and Printers – added
  • Sound – added
  • Network and Sharing Center – added
  • Device Manager – added

1.6 Given a scenario, install and configure Windows networking on a client/desktop. – From objective 1, subobjective 6 in 220-802. The Bloom’s level has increased. “Given a scenario” requires applying your knowledge, rather than the old wording of “Setup and configure” (demonstrating knowledge without application). These new topics were added:

  • Network shares/administrative shares/mapping drives – changed to include administrative shares
  • Printer sharing vs. network printer mapping – added
  • Remote Desktop Connection – changed to proper name of tool
  • Remote Assistance – added
  • Network card properties
    • BIOS (on-board NIC) – added to Network card properties section

1.7 Perform common preventive maintenance procedures using the appropriate Windows OS tools. – From objective 1, subobject 7 in 220-802.

  • Best practices
    • Scheduled disk maintenance – changed to disk maintenance instead of separate check disks and defragmentation
    • Antivirus/ Antimalware updates – changed to include antimalware
  • Tools
    • Disk maintenance utilities – changed to disk maintenance utilities instead of check disk and defrag
220-902 Objective 2: Other Operating Systems & Technologies

This is a mostly new objective for the A+ certification. For those of you that go way back (and I am talking way, way back here), you’ll remember that the A+ certification used to cover the Apple and Linux operating systems, cloud technologies, and network hosts. With this latest version, you will see a return of those operating systems in this objective, as well as covering the mobile device operating systems, virtualization, mobile device connectivity and email, and mobile devices synchronization, which were all covered in 220-802.

Continue Reading The New A+ 900 Series: What’s New (Part 4 of 5)…

The New A+ 900 Series: What’s New (Part 2 of 5)

January 28, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, CompTIA, Study hints, study tips | 1 Comment
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As I explained in my last post, CompTIA has released a new version of the A+ certification by rolling out the 220-901 and 220-902 exams on December 15, 2015. The old 220-801 and 220-802 exams are still available, but they will retire on June 30, 2016 in the United States.

In this post, I will cover the first two objectives for 220-901, Hardware and Networking. I’ll give you the entire overview of each objective, list each subobjective, tell you where each topic fell in the old A+ 800-series (if applicable), and put all changes or additions in RED ITALICS.

I will not call out any deleted topics, although CompTIA has removed some topics (for example, floppy drives and SCSI). This is because I am not really sure if those topics were actually removed from the exam, or if they are just so insignificant that they aren’t called out in the objective listing, but are still floating around in some test questions. Remember that CompTIA’s objective listing contains a disclaimer that says,

“The lists of examples provided in bulleted format below each objective are not exhaustive lists. Other examples of technologies, processes or tasks pertaining to each objective may also be included on the exam although not listed or covered in this objectives document.”

For this reason, I didn’t want to focus on what was removed. My exam experience has shown that the bullet lists are not exhaustive. Spending time focusing on what was removed may give you a false sense of security by making you think you don’t need to study those topics. So I am just ignoring any topic removals.

First, a note about “Bloom’s Levels”

In this and subsequent posts, you’ll see me refer to topics changing their Bloom’s level. In the instructional design world, Bloom’s taxonomy is a model for describing the depth or complexity of a learning outcome, much like the OSI model describes the level at which a network component operates. Level 1 is basic memorization (what is a router?), where level 6 is complete mastery of a concept (designing a network from scratch).

If I mention here that a Bloom’s level has changed, it generally means that CompTIA is asking for something more complex than memorization. While these changes shouldn’t scare you, there is a bit more “rubber meeting the road” to the higher Bloom’s levels. For example, instead of recognizing various LCD technologies from a list, you may be asked to evaluate which LCD is the best choice for a given scenario. Instead of answering a question about how CIDR notation behaves in abstract, you may be asked to configure a subnet mask.

220-901 Objective 1: Hardware

A+ 220-801 covered hardware in its own domain and included BIOS, motherboards, RAM, expansion cards, storage devices, CPUs and cooling, connectors and cables, power supplies, custom configurations, display devices, and peripherals. In A+ 220-901, hardware has been expanded to include UEFI and printers and multi-functional devices (which  was its own objective in 220-801). In some cases, minor wording changes occured at the subobjective level.

1.1 Given a scenario, configure settings and use BIOS/UEFI tools on a PC. – From Objective 1, subobjective 1 in the old version. The Bloom’s level for this objective increased, because the “Given a scenario” qualification is now part of this objective. Instead of simply identifying what a setting does, you will likely be asked to choose the correct setting for a given set of conditions. There is only one new topic:

  • Secure boot – added to BIOS security sub-section

1.2 Explain the importance of motherboard components, their purpose, and properties. – From Objective 1, subobjective 2 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level (and therefore the difficulty) for this objective changed as well, because the “Explain the importance” phrase is used instead of “Differentiate between” (demonstrating knowledge without application) in the old version. One new topic was added:

  • Mini-ITX – added to Sizes section

1.3 Compare and contrast various RAM types and their features. – From Objective 1, subobjective 3 in 220-801. One new topic was added:

  • Buffered versus unbuffered – added to Types section

1.4 Install and configure PC expansion cards. – From Objective 1, subobjective 4 in 220-801. One new topic was added:

  • Storage cards – added

1.5 Install and configure storage devices and use appropriate media. – From Objective 1, subobjective 5 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Hybrid and eMMC – added to Solid state/flash drives section

1.6 Install various types of CPUs and apply the appropriate cooling methods. – From Objective 1, subobjective 6 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Install” phrase (using acquired knowledge) is used instead of “Differentiate among” (demonstrating knowledge without application) in the old version. New topics include:

  • Intel 1150, 2011 – added to Socket types section
  • AMD FM2, FM2+ – added to Socket types section
  • Disable execute bit – added to Characteristics section
  • Fanless/passive – added to Cooling section

1.7 Compare and contrast various PC connection interfaces, their characteristics and purpose. – From Objective 1, subobjective 7 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Analog and Digital (Optical connector) – added to Audio sub-section
  • NFC – added to Wireless connections section
  • Quality and DRM – added to Characteristics section

1.8 Install a power supply based on given specifications. – From Objective 1, subobjective 8 in 220-801. One new topic was added:

  • Dual rail – added to Specifications section

1.9 Given a scenario, select the appropriate components for a custom PC configuration, to meet customer specifications or needs. – From Objective 1, subobjective 9 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective was raised to include “Given a scenario.” New topics are:

  • Multicore processor – changed from Powerful processor in Graphic / CAD / CAM design workstation section. This change simply updates the test’s language to current PC technology, as all “powerful” processors today will be multicore by default.
  • Multicore processor – changed from Powerful processor in Gaming PC section.  Again, this is not new knowledge, but rather an update of the test’s nomenclature.
  • Meets recommended requirements for selected OS – changed from Meets recommended requirements for Windows in Standard thick client section. This is an important change because it shows a shift back to including other operating systems besides Windows, which hasn’t been the case in the past few A+ releases.
  • Meets minimum requirements for selected OS – changed from Meets minimum requirements for running Windows in Thin client section.
  • Network connectivity – added to Thin client section.

1.10 Compare and contrast types of display devices and their features. – From Objective 1, subobjective 10 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Compare and contrast” phrase is used instead of “Given a scenario, evaluate” in the old version. New topics include:

  • TN vs. IPS and Flourescent vs. LED backlighting – added in the LCD sub-section
  • Refresh / frame rates – added frame rates
  • Aspect ratios (16:916:10, and 4:3) – added specific ratios

1.11 Identify common PC connector types and associated cables. – From Objective 1, subobjective 11 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Adapters and converters (DVI to HDMIUSB A to USB BUSB to EthernetDVI to VGAThunderbolt to DVIPS/2 to USB,  and HDMI to VGA) – all added, and all reflective of the cables commonly available in today’s computing environments.

1.12 Install and configure common peripheral devices. – From Objective 1 subobjective 12 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Biometric devices, Motion sensor, Touch padsSmart card readers, and Digital cameras – added to the Input devices section
  • Smart TV and Set-Top Box – added to the Input & Output devices section

1.13 Install SOHO multifunction device / printers and configure appropriate settings. – From Objective 4, subobjective 2 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Given a scenario” phrase has been removed. In addition, multifunction devices have been added and configuration knowledge is required. The new topics include:

  • Configuration settings (DuplexCollateOrientation, and Quality) – added to the Use appropriate drivers for a given operating system section
  • Infrastructure vs. adhoc – added to the Wireless sub-section
  • Cloud printing/remote printing – added to the Device sharing section
  • TCP/Bonjour/AirPrint – added to the Sharing local/networked device via Operating System settings sub-section
  • Data privacy (User authentication on the device and Hard drive caching) – added to the Public/shared devices section

1.14 Compare and contrast differences between the various print technologies and the associated imaging process. – From Objective 4, subobjective 1 in 220-801. The wording changed to “Compare and contrast” from “Explain the differences between,” but in my opinion, this change did not affect the Bloom’s level. New topic is:

  • Virtual (Print to filePrint to PDFPrint to XPS, and Print to image) – added

1.15 Given a scenario, perform appropriate printer maintenance. – From Objective 4, subobjective 3 in 220-801.  New topics include:

  • Inkjet (Clean heads, replace cartridges, calibration, clear jams) – added
220-901 Objective 2: Networking

A+ 220-801 covered networking in its own domain and included network cables and connectors, TCP/IP, TCP and UDP ports and protocols, wireless networking standards and encryption, SOHO wireless/wired router installation and configuration, Internet connection types, network types, network devices, and networking tools. In A+ 220-901, minor wording changes occurred at the subobjective level. All changes are in RED ITALICS.

2.1 Identify the various types of network cables and connectors. – From Objective 2, subobjective 1 in 220-801. This subobjective had no changes.

2.2 Compare and contrast the characteristics of connectors and cabling. – From Objective 2, subobjective 2 in 220-801. Slight wording change at subobjective level, but no change in the Bloom’s level. New topics include:

  • CAT6e, CAT7 – added to Twisted pair section
  • Splitters and effects on signal quality – added to Twisted pair and Coaxial sections

2.3 Explain the properties and characteristics of TCP/IP. – From Objective 2, subobjective 3 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Public vs. private vs. APIPA/link local – added link local
  • Subnet mask vs. CIDR – added CIDR

2.4 Explain common TCP and UDP ports, protocols, and their purpose. – From Objective 2, subobjective 4 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • 22 – SSH; 137-139, 445 – SMB; and 548 or 427 – AFP – added to Ports section
  • CIFS and AFP – added to Protocols section

2.5 Compare and contrast various WiFi networking standards and encryption types. – From Objective 2, subobjective 5 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • 802.11ac – added to Standards section

2.6 Given a scenario, install and configure SOHO wireless/wired router and apply appropriate settings. – From Objective 2, subobjective 6 in 220-801. The Bloom’s level for this objective changed because the “Given a scenario” qualification is now part of this objective. New topics include:

  • NAT / DNAT – added DNAT
  • Firmware – added
  • UPnP – added

2.7 Compare and contrast Internet connection types, network types, and their features. – From Objective 2, subobjective 7 and 8 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Tethering – added in the Cellular subsection

2.8 Compare and contrast network architecture devices, their functions, and features. – From Objective 2, subobjective 9 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Patch panel– added
  • Repeaters/extenders – added
  • Ethernet over Power – added
  • Power over Ethernet injector – added

2.9 Given a scenario, use appropriate networking tools. – From Objective 2, subobjective 10 in 220-801. New topics include:

  • Cable stripper – added
  • Tone generator & probe – added generator
  • WiFi analyzer – added
Closing Thoughts

As you can see, I am just covering the high points and not delving too deeply into these topics. My point here is to help those who already know the A+ understand exactly what new topics they need to study. CompTIA has started a series of Webinars called Deep Dive: A Look Inside the A+ 900 Series Objectives that cover these topics much more deeply than I do. You can access these Webinars  by joining the CompTIA Instructor Network at http://bit.ly/1Sxj3h9.

Remember, this post is part of a series of posts I will be completing. Here are the details for those posts:

To help you get through the holiday doldrums and start your 2016 study schedule off right, we just launched our 220-901 practice test! It includes performance-based questions and covers all the 220-901 topics.

cert-220-901

Thanks again for reading!

-Robin Abernathy

The New A+ 900 Series: What’s New (Part 1 of 5)

December 22, 2015 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, CompTIA | 2 Comments
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It’s that time again! CompTIA has released a new version of the A+ certification by rolling out the 220-901 and 220-902 exams on December 15. The 220-801 and 220-802 exams are still available, but will retire June 30, 2016 in the United States. This deadline should give you enough time to finish studying for the 800 series if you have already taken one test, because you cannot mix and match exam versions. If you pass the 220-801 or 220-802 exam, you must pass the other 800-series exam to obtain your A+. If you pass the 220-901 or 220-902 exam, you must take the other 900-series exam to obtain the A+.

To help you get through the holiday doldrums and start your 2016 study schedule off right, we just launched our 220-901 practice test!

cert-220-901

Once again, with a new release, we see another small shift in the structure and topic coverage of the two exams. Years ago (and I am going to date myself here), the two exams were referred to as a Hardware exam and a Software exam. While I think the topic coverage is moving in this direction again, CompTIA is NOT referring to them in these terms, and all documentation from CompTIA will refer to them as 220-901 and 220-902. Broadly, though, I think of the tests as “hardware and networking” and “software and security.”

For the 220-901 exam, you will be expected to understand installing, configuring, and troubleshooting desktop, laptop, mobile device, and printer hardware, as well as basic networking topics. The breakdown of the exam’s topics are as follows:

  • Hardware – 34%
  • Networking – 21%
  • Mobile Devices – 17%
  • Hardware & Network Troubleshooting – 28%

For the 220-902 exam, you will be expected to understand installing, configuring, and troubleshooting Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Mac OS, Linux, and mobile device operating systems. (Notice that Windows 10 is NOT included in this list.) It  includes virtualization, cloud, and. server technologies. It also covers security, including security devices and configuring and troubleshooting security components. Finally, it covers those soft skills and operational procedures required by the IT technician. The breakdown of the exam’s topics are as follows:

  • Windows Operating System – 29%
  • Other Operating Systems & Technologies – 12%
  • Security – 22%
  • Software Troubleshooting – 24%
  • Operational Procedures – 13%

When the 800-series A+ was released back in 2012, many test candidates decided to knock out both exams on the same day because there was so much overlap between the topics being covered. For those exams, this was probably a good strategy. But with the 900-series exams, the structure has changed enough that I would suggest that you prepare to take them separately, NOT on the same day. As you can see from the topic listings above, there is hardly any overlap between the two exams.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting four more parts to this series and discuss changes to each topic area in depth:

CompTIA has launched a new CompTIA Instructor Network (CIN), which I encourage all CompTIA instructors to join. It’s easy as going here to sign up. It is a great way to network with other instructors. Recently, they started a Deep Dive series of Webinars on the new A+ exams! To access the A+ Deep Dive series, go here.

Watch for my upcoming posts!

-Robin

Interested in Learning More about the new 800-series A+? Watch our Webinar video!

May 13, 2013 at 7:47 am | Posted in CompTIA | Leave a comment
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So a few months ago…after much arm twisting…I had the “opportunity” to host an A+ Webinar. (The term opportunity is in quotes because anyone who knows me knows that I get very nervous when speaking to a group, whether live or virtual, and I hate my recorded voice.) Well, the Webinar went off without a hitch…That is, unless you consider my very southern accent as a “hitch.”

The video of that Webinar is available now.  So if you’ll pardon my southern accent, agree NOT to count the number of times I say UMMM, and ignore the long pauses, here’s your chance to learn more about the new 800-series A+ exams:

http://www.kapmarketing.net/CertPrep/TRA_Webinars/MRKT-9887_TRA_Feb282013/index.html

Hope you enjoy it!

-Robin

How to Learn More About CompTIA’s Performance-Based Questions (with FREE Webcast offer)

December 4, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Performance-Based Testing, Vendor news | 3 Comments
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With the release of CompTIA’s new A+ series, 220-801 and 220-802, many of you will finally get your first look at CompTIA’s performance-based questions. The performance-based questions were actually first released by CompTIA in their CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) exam, but the CASP has a more limited audience than CompTIA’s A+, Network+, and Security+ exams.

Several members of our Content Development team have seen the CASP, the new A+ and Network+ performance-based questions, and we all feel that CompTIA is headed in the right direction with these item types. While we can’t share any details ourselves, CompTIA has released information over the past few weeks that will hopefully answer some of your questions. Here are a few resources I would recommend:

Did you notice CompTIA has increased the recommended hours of hands-on field experience to one year, up from the previously recommended six months? Those of us who have already taken the exam perceived a small but definite increase in difficulty. Again, with those performance-based items, you can either perform a task or you can’t. Hands-on experience is key. If the question simulates an action you do every day at work, then you’re probably going to find it a breeze. If it tests a concept you’ve only read about in books or studied in the abstract, it may take you a little longer to puzzle out the solution.

As I already mentioned, the new A+ and Network+ exams include performance-based questions. CompTIA will integrate performance-based questions into the Security+ exam in January.

So it looks like the move is permanent, folks! Embrace it! And know that what CompTIA has released is just the tip of the iceberg. Does anyone remember Microsoft’s 83-640 exam? I think that was a glimpse of where performance-based testing should really go.

-Robin

Mobile Devices in the new CompTIA A+ exams (Part 2 of 2)

October 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Posted in CompTIA | Leave a comment
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Well, it’s been two weeks since I introduced you to the Mobile Devices domain in the new A+ 220-802 exam. In that post, I gave information on the first two objectives in the Mobile Devices domain. In this post, I want to finish by discussing the last three objectives from the domain:

3.3 Compare and contrast methods for securing mobile devices.
3.4 Compare and contrast hardware differences in regards to tablets and laptops.
3.5 Execute and configure mobile device synchronization.

For objective 3.3: Compare and contrast methods for securing mobile devices, the main focus is mobile device security. The main points that you should concern yourself with are as follows:

  • Passcode locks – This is the most basic security measure. Passcode locks block unauthorized users from accessing any of the device’s functions. In Android phones, this is configured in the Settings Location & Security section. In iOS-based devices, it is configured in the Settings – General section.
  • Locator applications – This security measure uses the GPS feature to locate a lost or stolen mobile device. For iPhones, you would enable the Find My iPhone feature. For Android devices, you can use a number of third-party security applications (such as Android Lost, AVG Antivirus, or Lookout) to remotely locate a phone.
  • Remote wipes – This security measure ensures that all data on the mobile device can be erased if the mobile device is lost or stolen. For iPhones, there is an iCloud feature (available in iOS 5) that allows the Remote Wipe feature. Google Apps administrators can perform this function with Google Sync (in beta, as of this writing). Most third-party Android security apps will have the option to locate, lock, or remotely wipe the device.
  • Remote backup applications – This functionality allows all data and applications to be backed up to ensure that the data could be restored if the mobile device is lost or stolen. For iPhones, backups are managed by the iTunes application. For Android devices, you will need to download an application that provides this functionality.
  • Failed login attempts restrictions – This security feature will lock a device after the configured number of failed login attempts. For iPhones, the lock occurs by default after 6 failed attempts and erases the data after 10 failed attempts. For Android devices, this feature is not built in, so you will need to add an application to provide this functionality. Most mobile devices also let you wipe the device contents after the configured number of failed logins.
  • Antivirus – Because mobile devices can be corrupted by malware, you should install an anti-malware application. Desktop antivirus vendors, like McAfee and AVG, also have products designed for mobile devices. Keep in mind that the product must be regularly updated to protect against the latest malware and virus threats.
  • Patching/OS updates – Patching the operating system and applications is necessary for all mobile devices. Most mobile devices have a built-in function that will notify you periodically when updates are detected. Make sure your device is updated so that all the latest security patches are installed, because security patches are the most common type of update.

For objective 3.4: Compare and contrast hardware differences in regards to tablets and laptops, you need to understand the hardware that is used in a mobile device and how it typically compares to laptop hardware.

  • You should keep in mind that most mobile devices do NOT have field-serviceable parts. Specialized tools are needed to replace any mobile device hardware, including the screen and internal parts. Repairs should only be carried out by technicians who are properly trained. If you have a device repaired by a technician that is not backed by the vendor, the warranty will be voided.
  • Also, keep in mind that mobile devices typically cannot be upgraded. Therefore, you should purchase the device that provides the maximum level of hardware for your current and future needs.
  • Most mobile devices are touch screen devices, which uses two technologies: touch flow or multitouch. With touch flow, finger movement (up, down, left, right) controls how the screen scrolls. With multitouch, the screen will recognize multiple touches, which means that more than one finger can work with the interface at the same time.
  • Mobile devices typically use solid-state drives, which are lighter and less prone to crashes.

For objective 3.5: Execute and configure mobile device synchronization, you need to understand how to sync your mobile device. This includes understanding the type of data that will need to be synced, the software requirements to install the syncing application on your desktop computer or laptop, and the connection types that can be used with synchronization. Users will need to be able to sync contact information, applications, e-mail, pictures, music, and videos.

  • Push synchronization is automatic and requires no user effort. Any change made will be synced to the other devices at regular intervals that you configure. (Remember that push synchronization can consume battery so use a longer schedule time if battery consumption is a concern.)
  • Pull synchronization, on the other hand, requires the user to actually activate the synchronization, which then pulls new information from the other device.
  • Synchronization can occur via a direct USB connection between devices, over a Bluetooth connection between the devices, and even over a 802.11 wireless network. Some specialized synchronization applications even allow you to use the Internet for synchronization.

While most mobile devices have a built-in sync feature, applications available through the marketplace usually do a much better job and include many more options. If you purchase a synchronization application, make sure that your mobile device meets the application’s requirements.

In closing, I hope these two Mobile Devices posts have helped to shed a bit of light on just where CompTIA is going with this topic. I have to say that I am glad to see this topic included as part of an IT technician’s job analysis. As mobile devices gain in popularity, technicians will definitely be expected to understand how to configure mobile devices in the real world.

I’ll be taking the 220-801 and 220-802 exams this week. I am really looking forward to seeing how the exams have changed, and assessing the new mobile device coverage and performance-type items.

Watch for my post in the coming weeks where I review Mike Meyer’s Eighth Edition of the CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Guide. I’ll also be posting some ideas about mobile phone emulators to help in labs and classrooms, and to help students self-study for the new mobile device topic coverage on the 220-802.

– Robin Abernathy

Mobile Devices in the new CompTIA A+ exams (Part 1 of 2)

October 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Study hints | 1 Comment
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Last month, I posted an article about the virtualization topics in the new A+ exams. At that time, I indicated that I would be posting about the new mobile devices topics. I expected to get the two articles out within a few weeks of each other, but as it always seems to happen around here, other things took precedence….and a month later, I am finally sitting down to fulfill my promise.

Mobile devices have increasingly become part of our lives. Because of the popularity of these devices and our dependence on them, the CompTIA A+ certification now includes  mobile device topics to ensure that A+ technicians are proficient in certain aspects of mobile device management. The new A+ 220-802 exam has an entire domain that is dedicated to mobile devices. Domain 3, the Mobile Device domain, makes up 9% of the exam. The objectives from Domain 3 are as follows:

3.1 Explain the basic features of mobile operating systems.
3.2 Establish basic network connectivity and configure email.
3.3 Compare and contrast methods for securing mobile devices.
3.4 Compare and contrast hardware differences in regards to tablets and laptops.
3.5 Execute and configure mobile device synchronization.

There’s a lot to chew on here, so let’s focus on the first two of these objectives. (I will discuss the other three in a coming post.) Please remember that I’m writing based on my experience with mobile devices and on what I’ve read in several reference books. As of this posting, I have not actually taken the new A+ exams. CompTIA released those exams this week, so I’ll hopefully have some time to take them before Part 2 of this blog post! But since I’ve been writing study material for the A+ exams since the 300-level A+,  I am fairly confident that I won’t be too far off the mark.

For Obj 3.1: Explain the basic features of mobile operating systems, you will need to understand the features of the Android and iOS mobile operating systems.

  • Android is an open-source operating system, while the Apple iOS is a vendor-specific OS.
  • Developers for Android have access to the same APIs used by the operating system. Developers for Apple must use the software development kit (SDK) and must be registered as Apple developers.
  • Android apps are purchased from the Google Android market (now called Google Play) or from other Android app sites, while Apple apps can only be purchased from the Apple App store.
  • For screen orientation, mobile devices use an accelerometer and/or a gyroscope. While only one of these is required, many newer mobile devices use both because they work better together.
  • Touch-screen mobile devices require screen calibration. The screen calibration tool will require you to touch the screen in different ways so that the mobile device can learn how you will touch the screen. If the device does not react in an expected manner when you touch the screen, it may need re-calibration.
  • GPS information can be obtained from cell phone towers or from satellites. Keep in mind that keeping the GPS function enabled will cause the battery to be depleted much quicker. Android phones normally use satellites to obtain GPS data, while iPhones use a combination of satellites, cell phone towers, and WiFi towers to obtain GPS data.
  • Geotracking  allows a mobile device to periodically record location information and transmit this information to a centralized server. Consumers have recently raised privacy concerns overs this feature.

For Obj 3.2: Establish basic network connectivity and configure email, you will need to understand how to connect mobile devices to networks and how to configure email on mobile devices. For all of the following points, I would expect this to focus mainly on the two major smart phones (iPhone and Android), but wouldn’t be surprised if you are expected to know how to do this for the iPad and other tablets.

  • Enable/disable the wireless and cellular data network.
  • Understand Bluetooth configuration, including enabling/disabling Bluetooth, enabling device pairing, finding devices for pairing (including entering the PIN code),  and testing Bluetooth connectivity.
  • Configure email. You will need to know the URL of the incoming and outgoing email server, the port numbers used by these servers, and the encryption type (if applicable). You probably will also need to know your account details, including user name, password, and domain name. The process for setting up email will vary slightly based on the mobile device that you are configuring and the type of account. Some of the more popular mail services, such as Exchange and Gmail, are easier to set up because of configuration wizards.

To fully prepare for these objectives, it may be necessary to install a mobile phone emulator on your computer if you do not have access to a physical mobile phone. In many cases, there are free mobile phone emulators available so that you can learn how to perform many of the basic configuration steps. You may want to research the options that are available and install them in a lab environment, particularly if you are an instructor. These emulators can provide a valuable service to students who do not have experience with mobile devices.

Part 2 of this topic will be released in the coming days and will cover the other three Mobile Devices objectives in the 220-802 exam. I also plan to have a post in the coming months on mobile phone emulators, so feel free to send me any information on what you have found in this area.

Until then….

-Robin

Resource Review: CompTIA A+ Complete Review Guide Second Edition by Emmett Dulaney and Troy McMillan

September 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, CompTIA | Leave a comment
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The latest version of the A+ exams (220-801 and 220-802) are due out in October. Many of us…ok, maybe just me….anxiously await this latest release from CompTIA.

With this latest iteration, CompTIA has dropped the test naming structures we saw in the past (220-701 A+ Essentials and 220-702 A+ Practical Application) and is just going with a number naming convention (A+ 220-801 and A+ 220-802). But that is not all that has changed: CompTIA has announced that the new exams will include performance-based testing (PBT) items. Think of these items as answering a question by DOING instead of answering a question by selecting from options. I imagine these items will involve running commands, configuring dialog boxes, and matching concepts, but I truly don’t know what they are like. Although Transcender is a CompTIA partner, the details I have about these items are few and far between. I’ll see the questions on the same day that you will, when they go live.

Now back to our resource review. The latest A+ release has been choreographed with the content publishers in a much better manner than in the past. I have been very impressed with the way publishers have hustled to meet the training world’s needs when it comes to these exams. In the past, books and study guides were often released weeks or months after an exam was released. This meant that test candidates did not always jump on the bandwagon early in the certification lifecycle. Often candidates were waiting for a book to help them prepare for the exam, which meant that certification popularity was influenced by the publication of study materials.

With the 800-series A+, trainers and early adopters don’t have the same issues. By the time these exams are released to the public, there will be several references available to choose from. Today I’ll share my thoughts on Sybex’s CompTIA A+ Complete Review Guide, Second Edition, by Emmett Dulaney and Troy McMillan.

Review Guide versus Study Guide: What’s the Difference?

I want to point out that Sybex also released the CompTIA A+Complete Study Guide, Exams 220-801 and 220-802, 2nd Edition by Quentin Docter, Emmett Dulaney, and Toby Skandier this month. Where the Review Guide is 496 pages, the Study Guide rings in at 1100 pages and provides much more background knowledge to help bring the beginner up to speed. Review Guides are better suited for experienced techs wanting to catch up on the latest A+ changes, or those who need a refresher course. Where the Study Guide may be better for self-paced instruction, the Complete Review Guide is more test-prep oriented.

CompTIA A+ Complete Review Guide, Second Edition by Wiley / Sybex

First, I have to share the feature I love the most about this book – its structure. Have you ever downloaded an Objective List from CompTIA? While it makes sense on the exam, it usually does not correspond well to an independent book reference. Often you spend time flipping from chapter to chapter just to find all the information on a particular topic that may be applicable to one exam objective. With Sybex’s Complete Review Guide, the flipping is over. This book is arranged according to the exam objecitves. Each chapter corresponds with a unique exam objective from the Objective List, and each section within a chapter corresponds to a subobjective from the Objective List. This translates into easy, targeted studying. It  also makes it easy to find information about the latest new topics (Virtualization!! Mobile Devices?!?) So if you know that your knowledge is deficient in a particular area (did I mention mobile devices?), then you can go right to that chapter and section to find what you need. (BTW, mobile devices are covered in Chapter 8, pages 363-377.)

Secondly, I love that they give you just the facts you need. This guide is very exam focused. For example, they don’t spend a lot of time explaining the history of computer hardware. If you are looking for a resource that gets straight to the point, then this guide is your choice. It guides you into a focused mode of study to help you learn the information needed to pass the exam.

Finally, the book has plenty of charts, graphics, and bullet points (charts, graphics, and bullets, oh my!) If you have read any of my resource reviews in the past, you know I am a big fan of these study aids. When you have knowledge that you just need to know for an exam, it is often easier to study if this information is in a chart or listed in bullet points. Pictures always help you to recognize hardware, ports, connectors, and the like, which is VERY important for an A+ technician.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I played a small part in the publication of this book. As you may  have noticed, Troy McMillan, a fellow member of Transcender’s Content Development team, is one of the authors of this book. Through my connection with Troy, I was able to participate as a technical editor of this book. I can attest to the effort that these authors put into its development. Because there are so many facts that you must know, covering the A+ content in a concise manner can be quite daunting. But after sharing the process with Emmet and Troy, I can tell you that these guys have done a great job!

Keep this book in mind when you decide to start preparing for the new A+ exam. It’s a great resource for getting up to speed! And watch in the coming days for my post regarding upcoming changes to the Network+ and Security+ exams.

-Robin

Virtualization topics in the new CompTIA A+ exams (220-801 and 220-802)

September 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Posted in CompTIA | 1 Comment
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If you’ve been keeping up with CompTIA news, you know that the new A+ series (220-801 and 220-802) will be available in October 2012. Based on the Exam Objectives released by CompTIA and my past knowledge as a Subject Matter Expert, I’ve already started developing Transcender’s practice tests for the new A+ series.

As part of the new exam series, CompTIA has included some objectives that specifically cover virtualization. I wanted to take some time here to explain the level of knowledge on this topic recommended to pass the exams. I also wanted to cover using virtualization in a classroom environment for A+ technician training.

In the two new A+ exams, there are four areas that cover virtualization in some way: three bullet points in 220-801 and one entire subobjective in 220-802. The points that cover virtualization are as follows:

In 220-801:

  • Objective 1.1 Configure and apply BIOS settings.
    • BIOS configurations
      • Virtualization support
  • Objective 1.6 Differentiate among various CPU types and features and select the appropriate cooling method.
    • Characteristics
      • Virtualization support
  • Objective 1.9 Evaluate and select appropriate components for a custom configuration, to meet customer specifications or needs.
    • Virtualization workstation – Maximum RAM and CPU cores

For 220-801 Objectives 1.1 and 1.6, the main thing to understand is that certain vendor BIOS versions and CPUs have actually been created to provide additional hardware support for virtualization. In its infancy, virtualization worked entirely through software. But with recent advances, vendors have created BIOS versions and CPUs that support hardware-based virtualization. Is it necessary to have a BIOS or CPU that provides this level of specialization? No. You can still run software-based virtualization. But like special gaming graphics cards help gaming computers perform better, having a BIOS and CPU that provides hardware-based virtualization support will make your virtual environment much more efficient.  Intel or AMD Virtualization Technology uses the hardware more efficiently and is controlled by the BIOS. But it is disabled by default in the BIOS.

For 220-801 Objective 1.9, the main thing to understand is that you need a fast processor (or multiple processors) and lots of RAM. RAM is the one component in a computer that limits the number of virtual machines that you can run simultaneously. The RAM and CPU are the two primary considerations when designing a computer that will host virtual machines.

In 220-802:

  • Objective 1.9 Explain the basics of client-side virtualization.
    • Purpose of virtual machines
    • Resource requirements
    • Emulator requirements
    • Security requirements
    • Network requirements
    • Hypervisor

For 220-802 Objective 1.9, there are multiple points that you must understand. Virtual machines are not physical computers, even though they will look like separate physical servers to any remote users. Virtualization allows administrators to install multiple operating systems on a single physical computer. Each separate virtual machine can then provide separate services. But the virtual machines are only capable of operating at the performance limits of the physical server, and the virtual machines must share the resources of the physical server. So if the physical server only has 4 GB of memory, the performance of each virtual server is limited to part of that 4 GB of memory.

The security of each virtual machine must be considered as well. Simply securing the physical server is not enough. Each virtual machine will need the appropriate security, anti-virus, and anti-malware software configured. Each virtual machine will also need its own network configuration if remote users will need to access the virtual machines via the network.

Finally, test-takers should understand that virtual machine managers are applications that run on top of a host operating system, while hypervisors are virtualization software that do NOT need a host operating system. Virtual machines managers include VMWare Workstation, Virtual PC, MAC OS X Parallels, and Linux KVM. Hypervisors include ESX and HyperV.

In closing, I want to encourage you to actually install some of the virtualization products that are available. Learning about the basics of virtualization is important. But setting up a few virtual machines can actually make the world of virtualization come alive. There are many options out there, some of which are free (our favorite!). My suggestion is to take a look at the following:

Using any one of these tools would be particularly helpful in a classroom. You can configure multiple virtual machines for your students and allow them to “break” them. Simply make sure that you have a backup of the VHD file under another name, and you can restore the VM using a flash drive.

Watch for my upcoming post where I explain the Mobile Devices objective in 220-802. Until then, happy testing!

-Robin Abernathy

CompTIA Academy Educator Conference 2012: Study Resources and Takeaways

August 3, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, CompTIA, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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I was fortunate to be able to attend the CompTIA Academy Educator Conference over this past weekend. CompTIA promised that we would learn about the new A+ exams, the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) exam, and the Healthcare IT Technician (HIT) exam. This promise was fulfilled  with presentations from Mike Meyers, Jean Andrews, Joy Dark, and yours truly. Following is a quick recap on each of these topics, with more detailed posts to follow in the next week or two.

Virtualization in A+

Mike Meyers gave a presentation on virtualization. He covered the different virtualization products, including several free options as well as the major vendor products. He explained the installation and configuration processes for the various technologies. Educators reading this post should keep in mind that virtualization is a newly introduced topic to be included in the upcoming release of A+. In the A+ 220-802 exam, objective 1.9 states the following:

Explain the basics of client-side virtualization.

 Purpose of virtual machines
 Resource requirements
 Emulator requirements
 Security requirements
 Network requirements
 Hypervisor

Keep your eye out for my upcoming post about virtualization content in the new A+ exams.

Mobile technology in A+

Author Jean Andrews,  best known for her CompTIA study guides and PC repair guides, also spent some time discussing the upcoming A+ exam changes. Her presentation included a great demonstration of mobile phone emulators that can be installed in a classroom environment. If you’re wondering why this is important, let me remind you that in the A+ 220-802 exam, objective 3 is dedicated to mobile devices (9% of the overall exam coverage). Look for my upcoming posts regarding mobile devices, including one on installing the mobile phone emulators and one on a new technician toolkit for mobile devices.

New certification: the HIT

I had the pleasure of meeting Joy Dark. Joy has recently released a book, which she co-wrote alongside author (and mom) Jean Andrews, all about the CompTIA Healthcare IT Technician (HIT) exam.  Any A+ technician who is considering working in a healthcare environment should consider obtaining this certification. While A+ and Network+ knowledge is vital, a technician working in a healthcare industry must also understand healthcare terminology, regulations, and processes. This certification melds the world of IT with the needs of administering healthcare and healthcare records. I would highly recommend that educators take a serious look at this certification.  CompTIA is expecting great things for it in the coming year.

Security+ and the CASP

In my presentation, I tried to explain to educators three main points about the CASP exam: What the CASP certification is, where the CASP certification fits in our industry, and how to prepare for the CASP certification. Look for an upcoming post that gives the details of this presentation. I will also be posting about the primary reference I used for this exam (see the “study guides and resources” header below for a quick link).

The event also included two great security presentations: one from Mike Murray of Mad Security on training the security professional and one from Michael Gregg, the author of the CASP book mentioned in the previous paragraph, on the role of certification in security. Again, look for an upcoming post regarding security training solutions.

Study guides & resources

Joy Dark and Jean Andrews wrote the book that maps directly to the HIT exam objectives: The CompTIA Healthcare IT Technician HIT-001 Authorized Cert Guide (Cert Guides), published by Pearson. This book is released and shipping.

Mike’s newest edition of the A+ study guide is the CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, 8th Edition (Exams 220-801 & 220-802) from McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, which is currently available for pre-order by clicking here.

As I prepared my CASP presentation, I referred extensively to the CASP CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner Study Guide: Exam CAS-001 (Comptia Study Guide), published by Sybex. This book is released and shipping.

As you can see, the event gave me a plethora of information that I feel I MUST pass on to you. So expect to be bombarded with posts from me over the coming weeks.

I am already looking forward to next year’s CompTIA Academy Educator Conference.  You should start making plans to be there!
-Robin Abernathy

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